I’ve always been a huge fan of improving my productivity. Why? Probably because I’m naturally a pretty lazy person. So, if I can use productivity tips to make life easier, I will.
I’ve struggled with productivity for years and years, but I feel like I’m finally getting a handle on things these days. That being said, I’ve decided to share a few of my productivity tips with you.
Now, most of these tips aren’t exactly revolutionary, but when you put them all together, you’ll find that life feels less chaotic and more controlled. I’ll also list some of the reasons why each productivity tip works for me, which may help you decide whether it will work for you, too.
The Two Minute Rule
I can’t remember where I first read about the Two Minute rule, but I see it listed in just about every self-help productivity book out there.
The gist is that, if something is going to take you two minutes or less to accomplish, just go ahead and do it rather than putting it on your “to do” list.
Now, there are lots of ways to incorporate this rule into your life. I personally only us the Two Minute Rule for certain types of tasks. Otherwise, it’s just distracting. For example, if I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner and suddenly remember that I need to put wipes in the baby’s diaper bag for daycare the next day, I’ll go ahead and do the task. Then I can get back to cooking without letting the worry of baby wipes weigh me down.
However, if I’m spending time with my kids and an email notification dings on my phone, I’ll usually ignore it, even though checking the email will likely take two minutes or less. I know that I won’t forget to check my email (the handy little red number on my phone won’t let me!) so I have no trouble with mindfulness while I ignore it.
Basically, you don’t want to clutter your thoughts with mental reminders for tasks that will take almost no time at all.
I also find that the Two Minute Rule helps me be more productive because it’s an automatic reaction. Oftentimes, the greatest barrier to productivity is overthinking. By taking the thought out of the situation, doing the task just becomes an impulse.
This productivity tip is a small change that feels incredibly weird when you start implementing it into your life. And, like most of the things on this list, you really have to do it in a way that works for you.
I’ve seen some bloggers who say that they ignore absolutely all notifications on their phone until they’re ready to deal with everything at once. In fact, at least one person says she turns off all notifications completely.
I don’t go quite that far, but I do a few things that may surprise you:
Do Not Disturb
I put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m., every single day. I do this because of several reasons.
- For one, I’m a bit of a night owl. If I’m asleep by midnight, I consider that an early bedtime (it’s actually my goal bedtime, but that’s a topic for another day). Right now, I’m a foster parent to two babies. One falls asleep around 7 p.m., but the other often stays wide awake until 10 or even later. Once the babies are asleep, I finally get my “me” time for the day. This is when I read, play a game, or just watch TV for a minute. I don’t like that time interrupted by phone calls and text messages.
- It takes me a while to wind down from the day, and I also take a while to get started in the morning (See? Lazy.) I find it’s best to ignore human interaction during the late evening and early morning hours for these reasons.
- The foster care placement workers call me at all hours of the day. I’ve gotten multiple phone calls at midnight before, begging me to take a child for the evening. At this point in my fostering journey, I know my own limits, and I know that we can’t take any more children in our home or lives right now. (Trust me, two babies is plenty for new parents.) However, I get very worked up emotionally over every placement call I get, so I find it’s best to just not answer my phone if I know we’re full. It also saves the worker’s time because they can just move on to the next family.
- I’ve also gotten tons of frantic calls from DHR early in the morning. It’s either a transporter wanting to do a last-minute visit (“I’m on my way to pick up the baby now!”) or a case worker needing a form I’ve already filled out three times, etc. Whatever it is, it’s almost never a good call if it’s coming before 10 a.m. So, I just let them go to voicemail. If it’s important, I’ll call them right back.
- My number must be on a spam call list because I get at least one spammy phone call every day around 9:30 a.m. I don’t know why. (“Hi! This is Julie from home security!”) I’d rather avoid those, if possible, but the number changes each time, so I can’t just block it.
Now, obviously there are exceptions to this. I have my phone set where certain family members automatically go through, even when my phone is on “Do Not Disturb.” I also still get calls if the person calls twice in a row. So far, it’s a pretty fail-proof system, though, and I highly recommend it.
I have several productivity tips for email. For one, I use the Gmail app, which automatically puts all my promotional and social emails in certain folders so I never get notifications for those at all. I also have two email accounts: one that I actually use and another that is only for email lists. This cuts down on the amount of spam/promotional email I have in my regular inbox.
I only link the account I actually use to my phone. The other account takes more effort to check, though I do check it occasionally. But nothing important ever goes there.
To cut down on other emails, I use filters. For instance, our Audible account is in my name, so I get all the email reminders and notifications for it. But I don’t use Audible at all. My husband uses it, so I have a filter set up to automatically forward those emails to him and delete them from my inbox.
Finally, I’ve learned to ignore stressful emails. I’m easily stressed by interruptions to my schedule, so when a social worker asks for a good time to schedule a home visit, I don’t respond immediately. I give myself a few hours to focus on other things, and then I answer the email when I’m in a better mindset. I’ve found that it’s the disruption to my routine that bothers me. Giving myself a little time to get used to new requests really helps me think about them more positively.
Buy a Robot Vacuum
Okay, so I have to thank my husband for this productivity tip. The robot vacuum was almost entirely his idea. I kind of wanted one, too, but I certainly wouldn’t have made such a big purchase without his constant pushing.
So, he researched and purchased a Shark robot vacuum on Black Friday. It’s normally a $400 vacuum, but we got it on sale for $200 (we love to shop for deals). I’ve gotta say, it’s one of the best investments we’ve ever made.
We seriously use this vacuum at least two or three times per day. Now, granted, we have two babies, and one of them loves to throw all of his food on the floor when he’s finished eating. So maybe that should factor into your own decision-making, but I really think everyone needs one of these vacuums. You can set it to vacuum at a certain time of day or just activate it via your app (or you can push the handy button if you’re old-school like me). Ours doesn’t map our house or anything fancy, but it still does a great job cleaning.
Michael named our vacuum “Rosie” after the maid on the Jetsons. And she’s our new best friend. Even the toddler loves her.